Sharpening Your Skills: Why It’s Important To Work On Yourself


If you’ve got a few minutes, I’d like to tell you a little story. This story is about two woodcutters who were hired to chop down trees in a forest.

The job required the woodcutters to cut down 100 trees between the both of them. The first woodcutter’s strategy was to begin chopping down the trees immediately. He spent hours and hours each day chopping down the trees. The first day he managed to chop down 15 trees, the next day 10 trees, and the next day 5 trees. He began to grow fatigued, and he wondered why he was chopping down fewer and fewer trees as the days went by. The second woodcutter, instead of setting out immediately to cut down the trees, spent his time sharpening his axe. In the beginning the first woodcutter laughed at him saying, “You do know the job is to actually chop down these trees, right?” The second woodcutter paid no attention to the statement and continued to sharpen his axe. The days went on and the second woodcutter continued to sharpen his axe without cutting down a single tree in the process.

The first woodcutter became puzzled at his behavior. He thought, “ I can’t believe he is just sitting there sharpening his axe while I am doing all of the work!” He grew angry with the second woodcutter and continued to hack away at the trees mercilessly. 5 days passed and the first woodcutter had successfully cut down 50 trees. That very same day, the second woodcutter, with his sharpened axe, cut down 50 trees, in one day.

The moral of the story: Work on “sharpening” your skills before trying to “cut down” the trees in your life.

Oftentimes what I see in many people is the idea that in order for one’s life to change the circumstances must become different. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the only thing that needs to change in order for your life to change is you. I truly believe that if you spend time working on yourself, the circumstances will fall into place for you. Many people go through life like the first woodcutter — hacking away at different tasks that they are not sufficiently prepared for. If I can be frank with you, perhaps the reason why these types are not successful is that they lack the necessary skills to be successful. The media portrays the finished products of success, but usually fails to include the grueling process it takes to get there. I.e., a fitness magazines might show you pictures of models, framed under the headline “30 Day Diet”. Do you think it only took 30 days for that guy on the cover to have an 8 pack?

The thing you need to realize is that in order to make it in any arena in life, you have to build the skills required of your industry. Do you want to have better control of your finances? You better be good with numbers. If you want to make the excuse that “I’m not a numbers person”, feel free to continue to stay broke. Richard Branson, billionaire business mogul, grew up with dyslexia. He could have used that as an excuse, but he didn’t, he simply practiced becoming better with words and numbers.

So what can you do to sharpen your skills? If you have been following my posts I’m sure you can already guess what my suggestion is going to be. Read more books. When you are done reading those books, read some more books. Books are the most effective and cost efficient tools for learning. The more you learn, the more you can potentially earn. Books can give you a whole new perspective on life. Trust me on this one. Pick up a few good books in your area of interest, and you will be exposed to a whole new way of thinking. The thing I like most about books is that you can take advice from someone who is impartial to your life. There is no bias to you personally because the author doesn’t know you. You can read what the person has to say and you can take it or leave it. If you want to be in business, why not read books from successful businesspeople? Sam Walton, owner of Wal-Mart, wrote a book about his life story that you can buy for about 5 dollars. So instead of heading to Barnes and Nobles to buy that flashy business book that’s being marketed to you, why not read a book from someone who created a business that’s worth 160 billion dollars. That’s One Hundred and Sixty Thousand Million Dollars.

Go straight to the top for your information. I’m not saying you have to want to be a billionaire. What I am saying is, that if you want to be a successful businessperson, why not follow the methods of the very best? Would you rather pick up basketball tips from a high school basketball coach, or receive one on one coaching from Michael Jordan? Don’t waste your time learning from anyone who isn’t in the top 5 percent of their respective field. Use people who have already done what you want to do and model yourself after them. There is a blueprint out there in every area of interest. So unless your idea is completely original (rarely it will be), seek out someone who has already done it.

Figure out what skills are required to get to the top, and work on them relentlessly. I guarantee you if you work on yourself the universe will respond to you in a positive way. It may take a while for it to catch up, but it will. Step by step one gets ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. Go to work on yourself every day, take those steps, and slowly but surely you will get ahead. Opportunity + preparation = Success. The circumstances may not be ideal for you at this moment, but start to prepare yourself for when an opportunity presents itself. The window may be small, but if you are adequately prepared you will be able to take advantage of it. You may feel like you are in that forest with 100 trees right now. Take the time to sharpen that axe of yours. Wait until it is so sharp that it will obliterate anything in its way, and when the time comes for you to clear the forest, swing it is hard as you can. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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